A New Omega-3: Krill Oil

For years, research has demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids help lower an individual’s risk for heart attack, stroke, certain cancers, depression and overall inflammation. The type of omega-3s to take, however, has not always been clear. Omega-3s are broken down into three main components; ALA, EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are found in marine sources and are the best-absorbed forms of omega-3 fatty acids. ALA is found in plant-based foods such as walnuts, algae and soybeans. It's a great source, especially for vegetarians, but may not be as well-absorbed as their marine counterparts.

Posted on | Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD | Comments ()
A New Omega-3: Krill Oil
A New Omega-3: Krill Oil

For years, research has demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids help lower an individual’s risk for heart attack, stroke, certain cancers, depression and overall inflammation. The type of omega-3s to take, however, has not always been clear. Omega-3s are broken down into three main components; ALA, EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are found in marine sources and are the best-absorbed forms of omega-3 fatty acids. ALA is found in plant-based foods such as walnuts, algae and soybeans. It's a great source, especially for vegetarians, but may not be as well-absorbed as their marine counterparts.

Although the oils found in fatty fish such as tuna and salmon (taken either in whole-food form or in a pill) have been widely popular, many individuals are concerned about other toxins contained in the oils extracted from the farmed versions of these fish

Due to this, krill oil has emerged as the next leader in the wonderful world of omega-3s. Just like fish oil, krill oil contains long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids of the omega-3 family, EPA and DHA. In contrast to fish oil, EPA and DHA from krill oil come attached to phospholipids, mostly phosphatidylcholine. That structural difference leads to better absorption and delivery of DHA to the brain (in animal models). In addition, krill oil contains a potent carotenoid antioxidant, astaxanthin, that may prevent EPA and DHA oxidation.

A 2007 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that 300mg daily supplementation of krill oil resulted in significant decreases in inflammation and arthritic symptoms in cardiac and arthritis patients. Other studies have found that krill oil works as effectively as omega-3s from other sources, yet at a much lower dose. Furthermore, krill oil has been found to raise our good HDL cholesterol and lower our triglycerides as well.

Krill oil is found in tiny crustaceans, similar to shrimp, and is the main food source for whales in the Antarctic Ocean. It is found to be a more sustainable source of omega-3s because it's extracted at the bottom of the food chain and is located in one of the cleanest oceans due to its low occurrence of commercial fishing. These two factors make for an omega-3 source that is virtually free of toxins, metals and PCBs.

It’s important to note that krill oil has not been studied as thoroughly as fish oil; however, it may be effective as an alternative until further research can be done on humans. In the meantime, krill oil appears to be safe for human consumption and chockful of benefits.

Blog written by Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD
Kristin Kirkpatrick is a registered dietitian and Wellness Manager for Cleveland Clinic’s Lifestyle 180 program. Kristin has...